WordPress.com announced today that users can now upload and publish VR content on their sites, including 360° photos and 360° videos. Regular photos and panoramas are also now viewable in VR. The VR gear tested so far includes Cardboard, Gear, Daydream, Rift, and Vive.
Uploading VR content works just like adding normal pictures and videos. Users can then add 360° photos and videos to posts using a “vr” shortcode. The Harvard Gazette’s Confronting the Refugee Crisis story is one live example of the new VR content in action:
“Our goal is to make publishing VR content as simple as publishing text or photos to the web,” Automattic team lead Toni Schneider said. Schneider, who is a big VR fan himself, led the team to bring VR capabilities to WordPress.com. He worked in a VR startup in the 90’s after college and has been a VR fan ever since.
“With the re-emergence of VR, it struck me that WordPress can play a role in making VR content easy to create and access for everyone, just like we did for text and photos,” Schneider said. His team at Automattic uses VR for collaboration and Schneider said “hearing [teammates’] voices in their proper spatial locations makes for a more natural and seamless collaboration experience” that feels less forced than a screenshare or video chat.
Immersive storytelling driven by VR technology is also finding its way into the publishing industry. As part of his article in NiemanLab’s Predictions for Journalism 2017 series, Mario García, a media consultant and adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, predicts that “storytelling using VR will be easier to achieve, and more members of the audience will be prepared to welcome it.”
García cites the The New York Times and its Daily 360 section as one of the first publications to experiment with the medium. WordPress.com uses a similar UI, as you can see on the Harvard Gazette example, with an overlay that indicates VR content.
“One form of storytelling that will gain momentum: virtual reality,” García said. “It’s no coincidence: Editors and publishers are looking for ways to tell stories on mobile devices, and the future of virtual reality is also on mobile. For many newsrooms, VR is going to be the one big area for experimentation in 2017.”
WordPress.com is ready to ride this trend, making immersive storytelling available to all users – from large publications to small blogs. A few plugins, such as VR Views and WP-VR-view, are already available for self-hosted sites, and WordPress.com plans to make its VR capabilities more widely available to the WordPress world soon.
“It will be in Jetpack soon, as soon as the next Jetpack release comes out,” Schneider said. “The technology is built to work on all WordPress sites and even beyond that, on any web site. We consider this first release just a start. As soon as we see how people use it, we will start adding more features and supporting more types of VR experiences.”